If any of you has ever been involved in, or witnessed, some kind of disaster area during the past several decades, chances are you’ve also seen a group of people wearing bright yellow tee-shirts or jerseys with green hands depicted on them, among the first responders. Although rarely brought to the notice of the general public, these people are part of an international group of volunteers known as “Helping Hands” and are almost always there to give help to those who need it.
Helping Hands functions as part of the Humanitarian Services of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) and is composed mainly of members of the Church, although members of other groups have been know to aggregate themselves with the group, also wearing the typical yellow tee-shirts. The “helping hands” that you will usually meet are generally from the area in which they serve, which is why they are usually on the spot so quickly.
Helping Hands is present in Latin America, Asia, North America, Europe, Africa and the Pacific Islands and have been involved in helping clean up after earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. Quite often, those who have been hit are among the first to arrive, ready to lend a helping hand to the others in need. I remember when Sandy hit in 2012 that one of my friends lost everything she owned in the flooding caused by the super-storm, and yet, when volunteers were gathering to go to various of the other areas hit in New York City and New Jersey, she was one of the first in line wearing a bright yellow tee-shirt.
Helping Hands is not, however, dedicated to disaster areas. They have helped clean up public parks and woods, helped distribute food among the poor, donated blood at blood drives. When I was living in Italy, Helping Hands in the Palermo district worked together with the UNICEF; we made rag dolls – a project instigated by UNICEF – whose sales helped provide vaccinations for children in third world countries. I personally made four, and enjoyed every minute.
Picture, center right: helping hands removing trees after Hurricane Katrina. LDS
Picture, above right: Immunizations in Haiti. LDS
© “H” is for Helping Hands, Mary Purpari 2014.